Contemporary Craft in Focus: still not

Artist Chawne Kimber stitches her experiences and activism in vibrant, improvisational-style quilts

SAAM
September 16, 2022
Media - 2021.83 - SAAM-2021.83_1 - 143071
Chawne Kimber, still not, 2019, mid-century fabric, quilting cotton,and denim with cotton sashiko thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Nedra and Peter Agnew in honor of the James Renwick Alliance, 2021.83, © 2019, Chawne Kimber

Artist and educator Chawne Kimber stitches her experience as a Black woman in the United States on her contemporary quilts, using them as a vehicle for social activism. In her artwork still not, the backdrop of Kimber’s poetic text is a body of bluesy denim patches, framed by pops of colorful fabric—all sourced from mid-century textiles. Kimber’s choice to use vintage cloth and improvisational patterns draws on her memories and family history; many of her enslaved ancestors in rural Alabama cultivated and ginned cotton.

Media - 2021.83 - SAAM-2021.83_2 - 143086
The back of still not.

Her great-grandmother, Mamo, and other relatives expressed themselves through quilting. The family participated in quilting circles to chat, cry, laugh, think, and mend — to create a home together. Mamo’s story was told through her quilts, and Kimber continues the thread, using her quilts, as she states on her blog, “to respond to current race-related social justice issues.” 

Register today to join artist Chawne Kimber for an exclusive virtual tour of her studio on Thursday, September 22, at 7 p.m. ET. 

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World marks the 50th anniversary of SAAM’s Renwick Gallery by celebrating the dynamic landscape of American craft. The exhibition explores how artists—including Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and women artists—have crafted spaces for daydreaming, stories of persistence, models of resilience, and methods of activism that resonate today. In order to craft a better world, it must first be imagined. This story is part of a series that takes a closer look at selected artists and artworks with material drawn from exhibition texts, the catalogue, and artists' reflections. 

Categories

Recent Posts

Detail of brown ceramic jar with writing and the signature "Dave" inscribed around the top.
Craftsman David “Dave” Drake, enslaved for most of his life, produced uncommonly large ceramic jars in 19th-century South Carolina adorned by his poetic verses
A woman in a black blazer smiles in front of a dusky landscape
Jill Vaum Rothschild
Luce Curatorial Fellow
A photograph of a woman standing in front of artwork.
Leslie Umberger
Curator (Folk and Self-Taught Art)
A photograph of a woman in front of artwork
Director Stephanie Stebich looks forward to the year ahead
 Stephanie Stebich, SAAM's Margaret and Terry Stent Direction in the museum's Lincoln Gallery. Photo by Gene Young. 
Stephanie Stebich
The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery
A detail of stained glass with a figure, in a fetal position, at the middle
Artist Judith Schaechter uses the labor-intensive medium of stained glass to capture a singular moment in time
SAAM